Agriculture and Food Systems - Theses

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    Rural credit and farm viability : a study of the Shelford soldier settlement scheme
    Vincent, David P ( 1973)
    The accelerated fall in wool prices towards the end of the 1960's precipitated the emergence of a financial crisis in the sheep industry with high farm debts and low farm incomes. The subject of rural credit, which had provoked only minor discussion throughout the buoyant income periods of the 1950's and 1960's, became increasingly debated by farm leaders who challenged the suitability of the existing credit market to meet the increasing capital needs of the rural sector. Since the implementation of the rural reconstruction scheme in 1971 which provides assistance for a limited number of unviable farmers, farmer demands for more general concessional credit facilities have intensified. Recently, following submissions by several farmer organizations to the Government for assistance, the subject of rural credit has rapidly developed into a political issue. This thesis is a study of farm indebtedness and the rural credit market in a woolgrowing community of soldier settlers in the Leigh Shire of the Victorian Western District. The area was chosen because it was thought that the settlers, hard hit by the 1967-68 drought, and heavily dependent on the profitability of woolgrowing, would be suffering severe financial problems. The economic analysis was restricted by the lack of suitable empirical data. The original survey data, collected by the Agricultural Extension Section of the University by personal interviews with farmers, did not include farm costs or inventory levels. Because this was a pilot study, the data was cross-sectional, referring only to the survey year. Before proceeding with the analysis, it was necessary to obtain additional financial information from the taxation records of co-operating farmers. The thesis was written before but submitted after the release of a Bureau of Agricultural Economics report (B.A.E. 1972) advising the Government on the adequacy of existing credit facilities. Consequently, no reference has been made elsewhere in the thesis to this report. The thesis is organized as follows. Chapters 1 and 2 provide a general introduction to farmers' borrowing behaviour, the existing rural credit market, and the debt position of the rural sector, especially the sheep industry. In chapter 3, the Shelford settlement is discussed with emphasis on the debt position of Shelford farmers and their use of credit facilities. In chapter 4, an attempt is made to relate the financial position of farmers to their physical resource levels and social characteristics. The variance in debt and income are analysed. Chapter 5 contains a discussion of some past influences on the current debt position, especially the 1967-68 drought. In chapter 6, the present and future prospects of farm financial viability are studied. Some commonly used indicators of viability are evaluated within the Shelford context. The dependence of settlers on short term lenders and the future role these lenders are likely to play at Shelford and elsewhere are discussed in chapter 7. Finally in chapter 8, the role of credit in agricultural adjustment is discussed. A solution for unviable Shelford farmers is proposed and some brief comments on the shortcomings of the present credit market are advanced. Conclusions are presented throughout the thesis, and chapter 7 and 8 form a summary of the rural credit situation in general and at Shelford.
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    A systems analysis approach to drought reserves in the Hamilton region
    Thatcher, L. P (1944-) ( 1971)
    Following a discussion of drought strategies available to the grazier, one particular strategy, the holding of drought fodder reserves, is examined in detail. The study estimates the least-cost fodder reserves for a range of stocking rate-pasture production regimes in the Hamilton region. The amount of hay feeding required on any stocking-pasture regime is determined from a simulation model of the grazing complex. In this model, three levels of pasture production are stocked at rates ranging from one to ten wethers per acre. The pasture production assumed ranges from "excellent" (i.e. equivalent to the Hamilton Research Station pastures which produce about 10,000 lb. dry matter per annum) to "poor" (35% less). The climatic inputs into the grazing model are the date of Autumn break, for which a formula is derived, and the June to October rainfall. The pasture sub-model is specified and used to derive the pasture which is "grown" in the grazing model. The sheep aspects of the model are reviewed in detail to derive the relationships which are used in the next set of four sub-models in which animal intake is simulated and liveweight changes determined. This set of four sub-models provides for the four situations of animal intake which may be met. These are: The intake of green pasture alone (i.e. all pasture grown after the Autumn Break); the intake of hay alone; the intake of hay and green pasture together; the intake of hay and dry pasture (pasture remaining when the Autumn Break occurs and dry pasture alone which are handled in the same sub-model) The grazing model was validated for the years 1965-67 using data from the Pastoral Research Station, Hamilton, and showed good agreement for all three years simulated, one of which featured a severe drought. Drought feeding requirements (hay) are determined for each of the years 1879 to 1967 and for the ten stocking rate-pasture production regimes, using specific hay feeding rules. These rules, which aim at sheep survival, do not attempt to specify optimum feeding rates per sheep, and any change in them could significantly alter the drought requirements for any of the regimes studied. Furthermore, the estimates are Lased on the assumption that all sheep are fed through the drought. A pre-drought strategy which permitted the sale of certain classes of sheep at some stage during drought would entail lower feed requirements and might have a lower expected cost, especially at high acquisition costs for feed and low replacement costs for sheep. An inventory analysis is then undertaken, based on a 12 month planning period, which utilises the hay feeding probabilities generated in the grazing model, and provides estimates of the least-cost hay reserve. In contrast to previous studies, the price of hay is related to drought length in calculating the penalty cost of inadequate reserves. The effects of varying several parameters of the inventory model are then examined. The parameters varied are hay costs ($4, $10 and $16 per ton), interest rates (7%, 20% and 50%), and salvage values, and these vary in association with the parameters varied in the grazing model (stocking rate, pasture production and the area closed for hay). At the intermediate values for pasture production and hay cost and a 7 per cent per annum interest rate, the minimum-cost reserve rises sharply, from 2 bales per acre at 2 wethers per acre, to 4.5 bales per acre at 3 wethers per acre, 8 bales per acre at 4 wethers per acre, and 15 bales per acre at 5 wethers per acre. The minimum-cost reserve was found to be relatively insensitive to changes in acquisition costs, except at low stocking rates, where a change in reserve of one or two half-bales per sheep was common as acquisition cost varied over the three levels. The effect of interest rates was also examined for the average pasture regime. On the lowest level of hay acquisition cost, ($4 per ton) increasing the rate of interest from 7 to 50 per cent caused reductions of only one half-bale per sheep. However, at high acqusition cost ($16 per ton) raising the interest rate to 20 per cent resulted in a considerable reduction in the minimum-cost reserve, especially on the lower stocking rates, and raising the interest rate to 50 per cent made holding fodder reserves uneconomic for any stocking rate. One measure of the risk in holding various levels of fodder reserve is the standard deviation of the total expected cost. As expected, it was found that this declines as the reserve is expanded to the maximum ever required. However, only a small reduction in standard deviation results from expanding the reserve beyond the minimum-cost level. Finally, estimates were made of the income-maximising stocking rate for each level of pasture production and hay cost, with the wool price at 30, 40 and 50 cents per lb.. At the intermediate values for pasture production (8,000 lb. D.M.) and hay cost ($10 per ton), and with wool at 30 cents per lb. net, the income-maximising stocking rate was 3 wethers per acre. Each increase of 10 cents per lb. in the wool price was generally associated with an increase of one or two wethers per acre in the income-maximising stocking rate. An increase of 2,000 lb. D.M. (from "average" to "excellent") in average annual pasture production was generally associated with an increase of one wether per acre in the income-maximising stocking rate. A reduction of 1,500 lb. from "average" to "poor" pasture. production reduced the income-maximising stocking rate by about one wether per acre. Increasing the hay cost from $4 to $10 per ton reduced the profit-maximising stocking rate by one wether per acre for all combinations of pasture production and wool price examined. However, a further increase in acquisition cost from $10 to $16 per ton only caused a further reduction in the income-maximising stocking rate at the poor level of pasture production: with average pasture production there was little change and with excellent production there was no change in the income-maximising stocking rate.
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    Some effects of botanical composition of pasture on the liveweight and wool production of sheep
    Reed, K. F. M (1942-) ( 1972)
    Until recently, the main evidence on which to base pasture mixture. recommendations in Victoria, has been district experience and the results from dry matter ( "mowing") experiments. The grazing experiments described in this thesis, were initiated by Messrs. R. Twentyman, R. Newman, R. Allen and K. Maher of the Department of Agriculture during the period, 1960-196. Their aim was to develop some objective appreciation of the relative value for animal production of some of the sown and unsown species in Western district pastures. In addition to pasture species evaluation, they sought information on the relationship between pasture growth and animal production. Such information is needed so that Agrostologists can better evaluate the many pasture management factors (such as fertilizers, seeding rates, seed. treatments, herbicides, insecticides and defoliation treatments) that affect pasture growth and for which advice is frequently sought.
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    Use of deductive reasoning by farmers
    Downing, H. J ( 1965)
    Chapter I. Review of Literature A. Classification Into Categories Sociology requires accurate observation, systematic classification and the logical establishment of relationships. Conceptical Variable Analysis provides a method of testing a general hypothesis by testing a corresponding empirical hypothesis. For example the concept of "Progressiveness of Farmers" can have as its operational measure the adoption of Farm Practices. Types of Scales developed to provide this measure are explained and evaluated.
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    THe role of stock agents in the rural industry
    Dunn, A. M ( 1974)
    The role of many servicing groups has been looked at by research workers interested in determining the influence these organisations have on the process of change in the rural industry. However, most of the research has concentrated on Government groups such as the agricultural extension services. Little attention has been paid to private groups such as stock agents. This research project used the theory of social roles to describe and evaluate farmers' and agents' perceptions of tasks which comprise the agents' role in the rural industry. Twelve agents and 20 farmers from two rural centres were interviewed to determine their perceptions of the agents' job. One aim of the study was to describe the main tasks that comprise the service agents offer farmers. The relative importance of the various tasks, defined areas of agreement and disagreement between farmers and agents. Another aim of the study was to determine the agents' activity in promoting change and improvements in marketing wool and livestock. There were differences between the two groups as to how the agents' role was perceived. The data are presented in four sections: First, the overall role relations between agents and farmers are broadly defined and in particular the tasks concerned with the agents' overall role are emphasised. Points of consensus and disagreement between agents and farmers are discussed. Second, perceptions by both groups, of the agents' tasks in woolbroking are discussed and attention is paid to points of agreement and disagreement. In a similar way to woolbroking, the agent's tasks in stock selling and finance are discussed. In all sections of results, the perceptions of both groups towards change or improvement of the agents' role are discussed. Concluding comments and recommendations are made with regard to the future role of agents in the service they provide for farmers and suggestions are made for further research.
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